Fantasy Hockey

2011 NHL Playoffs, Round Two: Eastern Conference Recap

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Sweep the Leg Johnny!

 

NHL Playoffs: 2nd Round
Well the Flyers and Capitals are done, so I can officially kick off my hatin’ shoes, lay back and enjoy the Conference Finals.  Not only are they done, but between the two, neither won one game this round, joining Phoenix in the first round.  I haven’t seen this many entertaining sweeps since the 1984 all-valley, under-18 karate tournament.  If only Mr. Miyagi were alive to have performed his friction-clap on Ryan Callahan’s ankle.  (Sorry Jackie Chan’s Mr. Han….your creation is an abomination and therefore, I do not acknowledge your existence.)  On with the show…

(3) Bruins over (2) Flyers:  If there’s one sports team in this country that’s hated by all, it’s the Flyers, Eagles, 76’ers, Phillies, Temple, Penn and Villanova. Nevertheless, I was actually looking forward to an entertaining series.  I have to admit I was wrong about this one.  I expected the addition of Chris Pronger, combined with Brian Boucher’s experience from his incredible run last year to give the Flyers the complete package.  The Flyers’ goaltending was terrible, and it cost them.  I also knew the Bruins are stacked, and said that coming back from dropping the first two games at home to Montreal, had finally put the painful memories of last year’s pair of blown 3-0 leads to Philly (3-0 in games, 3-0 lead in game 7) behind them.  I was wrong about that too.  Not only did the Bruins not forget, but they made sure the Flyers knew they did not forget.  They rubbed their face in that reminder, curb-stomped it in, and had a tea party down Broad Street. 

The Bruins announced their redemption plan by putting up a touchdown before a stunned Philly crowd, chasing Boucher from the net in favor of Sergei Bobrovsky.  David Krecji and Brad Marchand each scored twice and three other Bruins pitched in the rout.

I can confidently say this series was over in game 2.  The Flyers looked excellent in this game, scoring just 29 seconds in, and adding to the lead 9 minutes later.  Tim Thomas was better, putting up a wall that would have made Roger Waters jealous.  He stopped the next 52…yes 52 shots, 10 of them in overtime, and many of them defying belief, giving his offense a chance to find their game.  They had the game tied by the end of the first period, and won it on a blast that needed the war room in Toronto to overrule the referee’s no-goal call to validate.  Even without the services of Pronger and Jeff Carter, the Flyers gave it everything they had and still managed to come up short, limping to Boston, down 2-0.

The Bruins and their fans welcomed the Flyers with a blowout in game 3.  Although they were once again outshot, they found twine twice before the crowd even sat down from the National Anthem, and then added two more late in the second period, building a four goal lead before the Flyers finally found the scoreboard near the end of the period.

Referencing last season, some people actually said that Philly being down 3-0 in games had Boston exactly where they wanted them.  And of course, the media tried to fuel that fire.  The rest of us were quick to call those people morons.  The 5-1 score in game 4 doesn’t reflect how close this game actually was.  The Flyers fought hard for their lives, tying the game at one, midway through the second period, and trailing 2-1 until the Bruins broke it open with three goals in the final five minutes, two of them into an empty net, sending Beantown, a classic Original-Six franchise, to the conference finals for the first time since 1992.  (I had trouble believing that myself.)  The good news for Flyers fans is that the organization has already unveiled their 2012 playoffs motivational slogan:  “Arm Yourselves!”

(5) Lightning over (1) Capitals:  For the third straight season, the Capitals have underachieved, having their season ended at the hands of a lower seed.  For the second time in three seasons, a team with an actual offense brought a rookie Caps goaltender back down to earth after the Rangers made him look like Patrick Roy in the prior round.  Ok, I promise that there is a very good chance I will consider not making any more Rangers references.  Although coach Boudreau did wonders teaching his team a completely new defensive system that they seemed to excel at, they looked about as effective as a house full of bin Laden’s bodyguards against Tampa’s “Seal Team 6” offense. (Sorry, I had to throw that in somewhere.  Way to go boys.)  

The Lightning were everywhere, swarming and scoring, and the Capitals were just too green with their new defensive style, and it quickly devolved into a chaotic mix of panic and reverting to their old, “let’s just try and outscore everybody” ways.

There seems to be a recurring theme in this year’s playoffs: winning the first two games on the road.  Tampa joined Boston this round, and Montreal last round in accomplishing the feat.  The Lightning wasted just two minutes of this series before Sean Bergenheim gave the Caps a taste of how things were to be.  Although Washington tied it shortly after and took the lead early in the second period, Tampa scored twice late in that period to regain the lead for good.  My new hero Steve Downie, who you’ll recall led Tampa in points, and all 16 playoff team in penalty minutes through the first round, came just short of the Gordie Howe hat-trick, notching a goal, an assist, and an elbowing minor.  (A fight would have been needed to complete Mr. Hockey’s hat-trick.)

Much like the Bruins/Flyers series, one can say game 2 just about decided this series.  The Caps threw everything they had at the Lightning, determined not to let their not-quite-as-raucus-as-Madison-Square-Garden-but-still-very-loud, D.C. crowd see them drop both games before leaving town.  They outshot Tampa 37-23, and outhit them 26-18.  They had an answer for each one of Tampa’s 1-goal leads.  But they had no answer for Vinny Lecavalier, who scored twice, including the overtime winner.   Going 0-6 on the power-play surely did not help their cause.  I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.  (For my younger readers, that’s an Airplane reference.)

Losing the first two at home isn’t really a new concept to most of the Caps, as they overcame the same scenario just two years ago, coming back to beat….on second thought, let’s not go there.  Now would be an excellent time to cut down on Rangers references.  Game 3 was very entertaining, as was the entire series.  Washington scored three times in the second period to take leads of 2-1 and 3-2 heading into the final period.  But Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone lit the lamp 24 seconds apart to put Tampa ahead to stay.  Coach Boudreau may have had a case when he protested the eventual game-winner not being waved off.  Malone charged the net to tip in a centering pass, knocking Washington defenseman John Carlson into his own goaltender in the process.  Neuvirth could only watch helplessly as the puck slid over the goal-line.  Boudreau argued that the contact prevented Neuvirth from having a chance to even try and make the save, and I actually have to agree.  That was the last of the scoring, and the series was all but over.

Nobody’s really sure exactly what Alex Ovechkin was guaranteeing after game 3 when he said, “We will win.”  Was it one game?  The series?  The Cup?  A faceoff?  My first reaction was that it was ridiculous.  But I quickly gave him credit for finally being the team captain.  It was genius.  If they lost, it was a sweep and nobody would have really cared what he said the night before.  But if they did manage to win four straight games, then the Great Eight knocks both Nostradamus and Punxsutawney Phil off the title of world’s greatest predictor.  Alas, it was not meant to be.  The Lightning put up five goals, their highest scoring output of the short series, and earned themselves a trip to Boston.

Note to Alex:  Next time you guarantee victory in an elimination game, no goals, one assist and five shots just doesn’t cut it.  Try an assist, followed by a third period hat trick…all after your team goes down 2-0 early.  Like I said on my facebook post; you sir, are no Mark Messier.

Written by Scott Blander aka Mr. Ice Guy exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com

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Tags: The Fantasy Fix, NHL Playoffs, Fantasy Hockey, 2011, Eastern Conference Recap, Scott Blander, Mr. Ice Guy
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